Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Way of the Chain Lightning

Which way does Chain Lightning bounce?

The question that has plagued the curious since the dawn of Hero Academy.  At first I thought it was deterministic, but the Chain Lightning started bouncing different ways depending on how I cast it.  I finally decided it must be random within a single turn, with an RNG seed being passed along each turn.

But then a comment from sands got my attention. I was preparing to refute his point, and started doing some testing to support my case, but then quickly realized sands was right, the Chain Lightning is deterministic - and hours of data collection later, I present it here for you!

The way Chain Lightning bounces depends on the direction that you initially fire.  Depending on which way you shoot first, you then get a "jump priority table".  For every jump the lightning will start at the beginning of the list and look for targets.  The first direction that presents a valid target is the direction the chain lightning will bounce.

If you shoot West: W, N, S, NW, SW, NE, SE, E

If you shoot East: E, N, S, NE, SE, NW, SW, W

If you shoot North: N, E, W, NE, NW, S, SE, SW,

If you shoot South: S, E, W, SE, SW, N, NE, NW

If you shoot NorthEast: N, E, W, S, NE, NW, SE, SW

If you shoot NorthWest: N, W, E, S, NW, NE, SW, SE

If you shoot SouthEast: E, S, N, W, SE, NE, SW, NW

If you shoot SouthWest: W, S, N, E, SW, NW, SE, NE

Realistically, the way Chain Lightning bounces is just something players fiddle with on the turn the opportunities present themselves.  With the UNDO option available, it's usually just easiest to play around with casts from various angles until you get a result you like.  That said, maybe somebody will find a time to make use of this - mostly likely when you're playing against a Wizard and you want to position one of your units to minimize the bounce damage it takes.

A few implications of this
  • If you're not already, when you're shocking enemies into crispies with your Wizard, try shooting from different angles to see if you get more favorable results.
  • The bias of lightning to bounce east rather than west makes me think there's a minuscule advantage for playing Council from the left side.  I can't provide very good evidence for this, except to say that if you ever need your lightning to bounce to a third unit, it seems that bouncing towards your enemy's side has a more likely chance of finding that third target.
  • If you don't like the way Chain Lightning is bouncing, and you can't get any angle to work, go with a different approach, because the situation is not going to change on a future turn.  A bad bounce pattern now means a bad bounce pattern for as long as all the enemy units are in this shape.
  • If you are playing against Council, once in a blue moon you can set your units in a position that makes it slightly more likely for the lightning to terminate at a spot to which it can not do a third jump.  Your opponent will think they just hit some bad luck but you as the clever Council-Killer will know better.  Truthfully though, such a situation rarely comes up.
  • You are more likely to be able to set up a bounce-minimizing situation when assaulting from the second row from the top.  Since lightning has a bias to bounce northward, you are slightly more likely to be presented with opportunities to lead lightning on your lead unit to a north-side soaker.
  • Another way to use this knowledge to your advantage is to set up an East or North "lightning Rod" of units who can take it.  If your units are targeted by lightning it will probably bounce down the line.


  1. wow.. wyatt thanks for the post.. be sure to use it the next time i play with or against the council

    keep up the good work!

  2. Good info --

    (This post would benefit from a 'Hero Academy' label.)